"A statesman thinks of the next generation, a politician thinks of the next election." Ian Smith, the last prime minister of Rhodesia
Talk is cheap, but walking the talk is another matter altogether. Ian Smith, the last Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who once thumped his chest and asserted truculently that black majority rule would not happen in the hallowed lands of Rhodesia, not even in a thousand years, did not consider himself as a "statesman" even though he knew exactly what a statesman was.
Rather, in his book The Great Betrayal, published in 1997, he points to Nelson Mandela as one, knowing that Good Old Nelson would not touch the land issue in South Africa, and with that the fate of the millions of landless Black South Africans would have been sealed for good. Clever cat, Mr Smith--and his people! But we are not fooled by such antics, not any more!
As those of you who follow this column will know, I have been revisiting Smith's book in these columns in the expectation that what he reveals about himself and the people he led will throw light on the present and lead to a better understanding of Zimbabwe--where I have now taken up residence.
In the book, he passionately believes that he was betrayed by Britain and South Africa to give way to black majority rule in Zimbabwe. But, in a typical case of myopism, he fails to see his own much greater betrayal of the millions of people (including the real owners of the land, the Blacks) over whom the country's state apparatus ruled with an iron rod. He readily admits, without apparently seeing the irony of it, that after nearly 80 years of colonisation, the Africans they ruled over were still, in 1965, no more than "tribesmen...who had no education and were unable to read and write", and as such "did not understand the meaning of the word 'constitution'", because they "had never exercised a vote in their lives".
Incredibly, he fails to see what had brought about this sorry state of affairs--like a father who has neglected to educate some of his children and then dismisses them for being uneducated!
Blind to the beam in his eye He tries to paint the impression in his book that apartheid only existed in South Africa. He is scathing about it, saying: "A division within a unitary country based purely on race, declaring that white people were first-class citizens and blacks were second-class citizens, was unprincipled and totally indefensible," he wrote. "Not only would it be impossible to gain...